Leo McCarey

Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo di Harry Leon Wilson. Scen: Walter DeLeon, Harlan Thompson. F.: Alfred Gilks. M.: Edward Dmytryk. Scgf.: Hans Dreier, Robert Odell. Int.: Charles Laughton (Marmaduke Ruggles), Charles Ruggles (Egbert Floud), Mary Boland (Effie Floud), ZaSu Pitts (Prunella Judson), Roland Young (conte di Burnstead), Leila Hyams (Nell Kenner), Maude Eburne (Ma Pettingill), Lucien Littlefield (Charles Belknap-Jackson), James Burke (Jeff Tuttle), Del Henderson (Sam). Prod.: Arthur Hornblow Jr. per Paramount Pictures · 35 mm. D.: 90’. Bn.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

uggles of Red Gap had long been a popular property when McCarey took it on in 1934. Originally a best selling novel in 1915 by humorist Harry Leon Wilson (also author of Bunker Bean and Merton of the Movies), it was adapted into a Broadway musical that same year and soon made its way to the movies. The first film version was in 1918 with Taylor Holmes in the lead, and its 1923 remake saw persnickety Edward Everett Horton as Marmaduke Ruggles, with direction by James Cruze and strong players such as Ernest Torrence, Louise Dresser, William Austin, and Lillian Leighton as support. Charles Laughton, known primarily for his dramatic roles in pictures like Island of Lost Souls (1932) and The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934), specifically asked Paramount to do this new version of Ruggles. Although his Academy Award winning performance in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933) had strong elements of humor, Laughton was looking for a change of pace, and was also determined to do it with McCarey. The pair worked together well, with Laughton appearing to be having a great time and almost seems to be channeling prissy silent screen comedian Lloyd Hamilton, who passed away a couple of months before the film was released. Having recently bowed out from playingMr. Micawber in MGM’s lavish adaptation of David Copperfield (1935), Laughton had shaved his head for the role so as Ruggles he wore a wig throughout shooting.
McCarey surrounded his star with a crackerjack supporting company of expert farceurs that includes Charles Ruggles, Mary Boland, Roland Young, Maude Eburne, and Lucien Littlefield, who could have individually overwhelmed the production but are organized into a true ensemble by the director. Laughton originally pursued stage actress Ruth Gordon to play his love-interest the Widow Judson, but ZaSu Pitts ended up with the role, giving a touching and perhaps her best sound film performance. While most of the picture is out and out comedy, McCarey does introduce touching moments such as the famous scene of Laughton reciting Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and the climactic toasting of Ruggles to For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow. The film was a critical success – Laughton won the New York Film Critics Award, and in addition to being an Academy Award nominee for Best Picture it was also on numerous ‘ten best’ lists. A smash at the box office, it would be remade again fifteen years later as the Bob Hope/Lucille Ball musical Fancy Pants (1950).

Steve Massa

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